With heaven's help, may this, please, be the last year when we have to give thanks for the "wave."
Between this Thanksgiving weekend and the end of the holiday season on New Year's Day, it's to be hoped that every sports fan will find it in his heart to spend one hour meditating on his sins if, in fact, during the past year he has at any time taken part in a "wave."
First among our resolutions should be an unwavering commitment never to "wave" again.
Of course, that may not be so tough. By the time we've seen the "wave" do its nefarious worst at 6,743 bowl games, the will of the majority may be clear: slap a restraining order on this pox before it's too late.
I, for one, already have taken the pledge. Let's start a new ballpark trend: the reverse wave. As that great philosopher, The Ebbetts Field Fan, once said, "Down in front, ya bum, ya."
Before we can atone, we must first confess. Yes, I admit, I've been weak.
I have waved.
But, now, I've had my fling. I've gone to the shrine of the "wave" -- the bleachers in Tiger Stadium in Detroit, where this trendy menace has reached the state of camp art -- and done it all. At the World Series, no less.
I've thrown my arms above my head and screamed like some stationary vocal body surfer, yes, screamed and stood at a moment that bore no relationship to anything in the world except the "wave" itself and the mass psychology of mimicking my neighbors.
I've done the "basic wave," the "slow-motion wave," the "everybody-shake-your-key-chain wave," the "boogaloo wave" (also known as the "illegal-procedure wave") and the "hex wave."
I laughed. I snickered, "Here it comes again." I felt at one with mankind.
Yeah, and I looked up and realized I'd just missed seeing both of Alan Trammell's home runs because I was too busy waving. Too busy fooling around when I should have been watching.
Not for me the high road like my former colleague, Dave Kindred, who never has waved and never will.
"Anyone caught waving at a sports event," says Kindred, "should have both arms chopped off at the shoulder."
I've been to the wave mountain and come back. And I'm here to say I was wrong. This evil thing must be stamped out. It's too tempting, too beguiling. So innocent on the surface, so insidious beneath.
On the surface, the "wave" seems both simple and fairly amazing. All you have to do is get 50,000 people in a stadium each standing up as soon as he sees the people around him standing up, then sitting down a moment later.
You can't do it wrong. It takes no talent. Even if a certain percentage of the ballpark population is made up of total klutzes, they can't mess up the timing of the majority. From senior citizens to toddlers, everybody has the requisite sensory apparatus to wave.
Also, it gives a sense of participation, of teamlike cheering, as though the crowd were not just a group of strangers but a social animal with the capacity to produce what looks like a coordinated and fairly complex result.
Simple as the "wave" may be, it feels powerful in a park. It has undeniable impact. The whole stadium roars continuously with the true crescendo arriving, departing, then returning again, perhaps every 30 seconds.
The impression of nonstop cheering and total fan involvement is created while the crowd, in fact, makes a fairly minimal effort. How hard is it to stand up, yell and sit down twice a minute?
What could appeal to popular taste more? Easy. Fun. Uncomplicated. Makes you feel good. Requires no understanding of what is going on in the game except that you want "us" to win.
A sour Democrat might say it sounds a little like voting for Ronald Reagan.
In fact, it's hard to say why the "wave" merits the death penalty.
One example, perhaps, helps us see the problem.
The Chicago Cubs.
The reason the Cubs were not National Leaghue champions, the reason there were no afternoon World Series games in Wrigley Field last month, is the "wave."
It beat the Cubs. More than the Padres. More than Cubs tradition. More than the Cubs themselves.
If the Cubs had gone to San Diego with a lead of two games to none in the playoffs in any other season in history, they'd have won the pennant.
Because the Padres, besides not being a terribly good team, were dead in the water.
Because San Diego's an enthusiastic but inexperienced baseball town where crowds have a hard time figuring out when and how much to cheer.
In Games Three and Four, the "wave" brought Jack Murphy Stadium alive and gave the Padres spirit and spine when they trailed in games they probably should have lost.
That "wave" got going and suddenly the Padres' novice fans had an answer to their dilemma. Just catch a "wave."
By Game Five, the Padres didn't need any surf for motivation. But, without the "wave," the genuinely firm feeling here is that there never would have been a fifth game.
Okay, okay, so there's nothing really wrong with the "wave," nothing truly bad about the San Diego fans using their frisbee-and-beer bonhomie to unnerve the Cubs.
Nonetheless, it's bothersome to see a pennant, or any important contest, influenced dramatically by something so mindless, so utterly unconnected to the facts and strategies of the game as the "wave."
Naturally, in such matters of taste, there are exceptions to any rule. If, for instance, the Redskins were driving for a touchdown to reach the Super Bowl a few weeks from now, even the most high-minded of Washingtonians might fall off the antiwave wagon.
And be forgiven.